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World Rugby U20 Championship match day two game by game guide

By Liam Heagney
Fiji U20s captain Nalani May and Zachary Porthen, the Junior Boks skipper lead out their teams (Photo by Shaun Roy/World Rugby)

Another six World Rugby U20 Championship matches are scheduled to be played in the Cape Town region this Thursday and the 12 countries confirmed their respective XVs over the course of Tuesday.

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Three matches are scheduled for Stellenbosch: Ireland vs Georgia (kick-off 2pm local), France vs New Zealand (4:30pm) and South Africa vs Argentina (7pm). Over in Athlone, Wales vs Spain is the opening match (2pm) followed by England vs Fiji (4:30pm) and Australia vs Italy (7pm).

All half-dozen games can be streamed live and for free on RugbyPass TV in all countries that don’t have an exclusive local host broadcaster deal. Click here to sign up for Thursday’s coverage. Here, RugbyPass sifts through the team announcements and predicts the likely results:

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Ireland (seeded 2) vs Georgia (8)Pool B at Stellenbosch (2pm)

IRELAND: 1. Jacob Boyd, 2. Stephen Smyth, 3. Andrew Sparrow, 4. James McKillop, 5. Evan O’Connell (capt), 6. Sean Edogbo, 7. Max Flynn, 8. Luke Murphy; 9. Oliver Coffey, 10. Sean Naughton; 11. Ruben Moloney, 12. Hugh Gavin, 13. Sam Berman, 14. Davy Colbert; 15. Ben O’Connor. Reps: 16. Mikey Yarr, 17. Emmet Calvey, 18. Patreece Bell, 19. Alan Spicer, 20. Brian Gleeson, 21. Tadhg Brophy, 22. Jack Murphy, 23. Finn Treacy.

GEORGIA: 1. Luka Ungiadze, 2. Mikheil Khakhubia, 3. Davit Mtchedlidze, 4. Temur Tsulukidze, 5. Davit Lagvilava, 6. Luka Suluashvili, 7. Andro Dvali, 8. Nika Lomidze (capt); 9. Sandro Jigauri, 10. Luka Tsirekidze; 11. Luka Keshelava, 12. Giorgi Khaindrava, 13. Luka Kobauri, 14. Luka Khorbaladze; 15. Otari Metreveli. Reps: 16. Shota Kheladze, 17. Luka Kotorashvili, 18. Davit Kuntelia, 19. Murtazi Tskhadadze, 20. Tornike Ganiashvili, 21. Mikheil Kachlavashvili, 22. Luka Takaishvili, 23. Nugzari Kevkhishvili.

This pair had very contrasting opening round experiences. Whereas Ireland turned on the style to gallop past Italy 55-15 at the salubrious DHL Stadium, taking revenge for the lack of a bonus point in a win last February that cost them the Six Nations title, Georgia were left ruing what might have been out at the rough and tumble Athlone.

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The Eastern European were 8-6 up on Australia when the expiry of a 20-minute red card allowed the match to return to 15-vs-15 and they were blown away in the remaining 33 minutes, losing that period 3-29 and the game 11-35. That will have pierced the giddy optimism they arrived in South Africa with after sharing a warm-up series 1-1 with England in Tbilisi.

For the clash with Ireland, Georgia have made just three changes, one in the pack at hooker and then two in the backs at scrum-half and left wing.

The Irish, meanwhile, have rotated nearly half their team, altering seven – four in the pack, including hooker and tighthead, and three out the back, including the benching of star out-half Jack Murphy. They have more than enough strength in depth to win, but the question is how delayed might the four-try bonus point be.  

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
Ireland U20
22 - 16
Full-time
Georgia U20
All Stats and Data

Wales (6) vs Spain (12)Pool A at Athlone (2pm)

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WALES: 1. Ioan Emanuel, 2. Harry Thomas, 3. Kian Hire, 4. Jonny Green, 5. Nick Thomas, 6. Ryan Woodman (capt), 7. Morgan Morse, 8. Owen Conquer; 9. Rhodri Lewis, 10. Harri Ford; 11. Kodi Stone, 12. Steffan Emanuel, 13. Elijah Evans, 14. Harry Rees-Weldon; 15. Matty Young. Reps: 16. Isaac Young, 17. Jordan Morris, 18. Sam Scott, 19. Osian Thomas, 20. Will Austin, 21. Ieuan Davies, 22. Harri Wilde, 23. Louie Hennessey.

SPAIN: 1. Hugo Gonzalez, 2. Diego Gonzalez Blanco, 3. Aniol Franch, 4. Pablo Guirao, 5. Adam Llinares, 6. Nicolas Moleti, 7. Jokin Zolezzi, 8. Manex Ariceta Maestro (capt); 9. Nicolas Infer, 10. Gonzalo Otamendi; 11 Roberto Ponce, 12. Yago Fernandez Vilar, 13. Alberto Carmona, 14. Julien Burguillos; 15. Luciano Richardis. Reps: 16. David Gallego, 17. Alberto Gomez, 18. Guido Reyes Rendon, 19. Martin Serrano, 20. Valentino Rizzo, 21. Javier Lopez De Haro; 22. Unax Zuriarrain, 23. Gabriel Rocaries.

The Irish rotation looks conservative compared to the approach that Wales have taken, making 10 changes after a stirring late surge versus New Zealand netted them two bonus points in a 34-41 defeat in Athlone.

Of the six teams beaten in round one, the Welsh were the only losers to collect points and they know that resting some front-liners here versus Spain is a wise course of action, given they complete their pool next Tuesday against the French.   

Right winger Harry Rees-Weldon is their only repeat starter in their back line, but they have retained four of their pack back-five to ensure the engine room keeps them ticking along. Lucas de la Rua is the only starting second/back row from round one to be rested.  

Spain, last year’s Trophy winners, had honour in defeat by France in their first-ever match at Championship level. They trailed by 28 points at the interval but then fought more resiliently and it was only in the closing stretch that the 2023 champions pressed the accelerator to win 49-12.    

Fatigue might become an issue for the Iberians versus the Welsh as the Spanish have made just four XV changes, two in the pack and two more in the backs.

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
Wales U20
31 - 10
Full-time
Spain U20
All Stats and Data

France (1) vs New Zealand (7)Pool A at Stellenbosch (4:30pm)

FRANCE: 1. Lino Julien, 2. Barnabe Massa, 3. Zinedine Aouad, 4. Corentin Mezou, 5. Charles Kante Samba, 6. Joe Quere Karaba, 7. Geoffrey Malaterre, 8. Mathis Castro-Ferreira; 9. Leo Carbonneau, 10. Hugo Reus (capt); 11. Mathis Ferte, 12. Mathys Belaubre, 13. Fabien Brau-Boirie, 14. Nathan Bollengier, 15. Xan Mousques. Reps: 16. Thomas Lacombre, 17. Lorencio Boyer-Gallardo, 18. Thomas Duchene, 19. Brent Liufau, 20. Sialevailea Tolofua, 21. Thomas Souverbie, 22. Maxence Biasotto, 23. Axel Desperes-Rigou.

NEW ZEALAND: 1. Will Martin, 2. Vernon Bason (capt), 3. Logan Watson-Wallace, 4. Tom Allen, 5. Liam Jack, 6. Andrew Smith, 7. Jonathan Lee, 8. Mosese Bason; 9. Dylan Pledger, 10. Rico Simpson; 11. Stanley Solomon. 12. Xavi Taele, 13. Aki Tuivailala, 14. Xavier Tito-Harris; 15. Isaac Hutchinson. Reps: 16. Manumaua Letiu, 17. Sika Uamaki, 18. Joshua Smith, 19. Cameron Christie, 20. Matt Lowe, 21, Ben O’Donovan, 22. Sam Coles, 23. King Maxwell.

This is poised to be the game of the round, the Baby Blacks going up against the champion French looking to level the score after last year’s match day two capitulation in Paarl. The New Zealand class of 2023 were flaky and France exposed that to win comfortably 35-14.

Having dispatched minnows Spain by a 37-point margin at DHL Stadium, they have made four changes – two forwards and two backs – to their starting team for the clash with the Kiwis in the tighter confines of the Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

Their big selection is going with Mathis Castro-Ferreira, a delayed arrival in South Africa due to Toulouse’s run to the Top 14 title last Friday night, as their starter at No8.

New Zealand have gone one step further and changed five for this round two game following their 41-34 win over Wales, which was more comfortable than the final score sounded.

The three alterations to their pack are at tighthead and two in the back row, including Mosese Bason at No8 for an intriguing head-to-head with Castro-Ferreira. There are also two changes to their back-three, including the promotion of sevens pick Xavier Tito-Harris to start on the right wing for a contest that, on paper, looks too tight to call.  

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
France U20
26 - 27
Full-time
New Zealand U20
All Stats and Data

England (4) vs Fiji (10)Pool C at Athlone (4:30pm)

ENGLAND: 1. Cameron Miell, 2. James Isaacs, 3. James Halliwell, 4. Harvey Cuckson, 5. Olamide Sodeke, 6. Finn Carnduff (capt), 7. Kane James, 8. Arthur Green; 9. Ollie Allan, 10. Benjamin Coen; 11. Angus Hall, 12. Oli Spencer, 13. Ben Waghorn, 14. Toby Cousins; 15. Ioan Jones. Reps: 16. Craig Wright, 17. Asher Opoku-Fordjour, 18. Afolabi Fasogbon, 19. Junior Kpoku, 20. Henry Pollock, 21. Lucas Friday, 22. Josh Bellamy, 23. Alex Wills.

FIJI: 1. Mataiasi Tuisireli, 2. Moses Armstrong-Ravula, 3. Elroy Macomber, 4. Nalani May (capt), 5. Iliesa Erenavula, 6. Ebernezer Tuidraki, 7. Ronald Sharma, 8. Simon Koroiyadi; 9. Aisea Nawai, 10. Bogidrau Kikau; 11. Sivaniolo Kalaveti, 12. Joseva Ubitau, 13. Harrison Valevatu, 14. Avakuki Niusalelekitoga; 15. Isikeli Basiyalo. Reps: 16. Iowane Vakadrigi, 17. Breyton Legge, 18. Luke Nasau, 19. Malakai Masi, 20. Ratu Nemani Kurucake, 21. Samuela Ledua, 22. Ponipate Tuberi, 23. Benjamin Naivalu.

Six Nations champions England have dipped into the playbook of 2023 which got them to the semi-finals. It was round two last year when they faced the Fijians in Stellenbosch with a much changed XV to be fresh for their round three game with Australia.

This year, with a view to round three versus South Africa, they have altered 12 heading in to play Fiji after a 40-21 win over Argentina in Athlone, the stadium they are returning to on Thursday.

They have played it smart by retaining skipper Finn Carnduff as the only sole repeat forward starter as he has the nous to guide this particular XV to the expected bonus point win.

Fiji, in contrast, have chosen 11 of the same starters from last Saturday’s 7-57 loss to South Africa at DHL Stadium. With a dozen players arriving late into Cape Town, preparations for their opener were seriously affected and they paid a heavy price.

Both starting props have been changed for round two, with alterations also at midfield and right wing. Skipper Nalani May was adamant when speaking to RugbyPass after the defeat to the Junior Boks that they would definitely improve versus the English, but the margin of defeat last year was 53-7 and it could be similar on this occasion.

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
France U20
26 - 27
Full-time
New Zealand U20
All Stats and Data

South Africa (3) vs Argentina (9)Pool C at Stellenbosch (7pm)

SOUTH AFRICA: 1. Ruan Swart, 2. Luca Bakkes, 3. Zach Porthen (capt), 4. Jaco Grobbelaar, 5. JF van Heerden, 6. Thabang Mphafi, 7. Bathobele Hlekani, 8. Tiaan Jacobs; 9. Asad Moos, 10. Liam Koen; 11. Lili Bester, 12. Phillip-Albert van Niekerk, 13. Jurenzo Julius, 14. Joel Leotlela; 15. Bruce Sherwood. Reps: 16. Ethan Bester, 17. Liyema Ntshanga, 18. Casper Badenhorst, 19. Thomas Dyer, 20. Keanu Coetsee, 21. Sibabalwe Mahashe, 22. Tylor Sefoor, 23. Joshua Boulle.

ARGENTINA: 1. Diego Correa, 2. Juan Greising Revol, 3. Tomas Rapetti, 4. Efrain Elias (capt), 5. Felipe Bruno Schmidt, 6. Juan Penoucos, 7. Santos Fernandez de Oliveira, 8. Juan Pedro Bernasconi; 9. Tomas Di Biase, 10. Santino Di Lucca; 11. Franco Rossetto, 12. Tomas Medina, 13. Faustino Sanchez Valarolo, 14. Timoteo Silva; 15. Benjamin Elizalde. Reps: 16. Juan Manuel Vivas, 17. Joaquin Yakiche, 18. Gael Galvan, 19. Alvaro Garcia Iandolino, 20. Agustin Sarelli, 21. Jeronimo Llorens, 22. Facundo Rodriguez, 23. Felipe Ledesma.

The Junior Boks’ team announcement was confusing, claiming there were five changes from the win over Fiji when there were just three in personnel – Jaco Grobbelaar, Phillip-Albert van Niekerk and Bruce Sherwood.

There were a couple of positional switches, most notably moving Bathobele Hlekani from lock to openside, but the most eye-catching tweak was the decision to go for a six/two forwards/backs split on the bench.

Rugby Championship events in May on the Gold Coast, where they had just two points to spare over Argentina, influenced their selection thinking as did last Saturday’s England-Argie game where a lot of South American grunt was on show. The expectation is there will be more of that abrasiveness in this renewal in Stellenbosch.

Argentina have changed five following their English loss (hooker, lock, scrum-half and a freshly minted midfield) and they won’t fear the Junior Boks, especially as they came very close to eliminating them in last year’s pool stage. The hosts, though, should just about squeeze through in a low-frills grind.  

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
South Africa U20
12 - 31
Full-time
Argentina U20
All Stats and Data

Australia (5) vs Italy (11)Pool B at Athlone (7pm)

AUSTRALIA: 1. Lington Ieli, 2. Ottavio Tuipulotu, 3. Trevor King, 4. Toby Macpherson (capt), 5. Ollie McCrea, 6. Aden Ekanayake, 7. Dane Sawers, 8. Jack Harley; 9. Dan Nelson, 10. Harry McLaughlin-Phillips; 11. Angus Staniforth, 12. Jarrah McLeod, 13. Kadin Pritchard, 14. Ronan Leahy; 15. Shane Wilcox. 16. Bryn Edwards, 17. Nathaniel Tiitii, 18. Nick Bloomfield, 19. Eamon Doyle, 20. Dominic Thygesen, 21. Billy Dickens, 22. Joe Dillon, 23. Frankie Goldsbrough.

ITALY: 1. Sergio Pelliccioli, 2. Valerio Siciliano, 3. Federico Pisani, 4. Samuele Mirenzi, 5. Piero Gritti, 6. Nelson Casartelli, 7. Luca Bellucci, 8. Giacomo Milano; 9. Lorenzo Casilio, 10. Simone Brisighella; 11. Lorenzo Elettri, 12. Patrick de Villiers, 13. Nicola Bozzo (capt), 14. Francesco Imberti; 15. Mirko Belloni. Reps: 16. Nicholas Gasperini, 17. Francesco Gentile, 18. Davide Ascari, 19. Mattia Midena, 20. Tommaso Redondi, 21. Jacopo Botturi, 22. Mattia Jimenez, 23. Marco Scalabrin.

It wasn’t until the Junior Wallabies were restored to 15 players following the 20-minute red card brandished to Harvey Cordukes that they managed to settle down and defeat Georgia 35-11 with a second-half bounce at Athlone last Saturday. They were 6-8 behind before winning the remaining 33 minutes of the Pool B fixture 29-3.

Cordukes was banned for two matches, while Jack Barrett (leg), Tevita Alatini (knee), Ben Di Staso (ribs) and Hwi Sharples (hamstring) have all been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament, resulting in the call-up of NSW Waratahs quartet Nathaniel Tiitii, Billy Dickens, Will Goddard and Austin Durbridge.

What it means for Thursday is that Junior Wallabies boss Nathan Gray has made six changes to his starting XV, five in the pack and one in the backs. Skipper Toby Macpherson, Dane Sawers, and Jack Harley are the three repeat picks up front, while the sole alteration in the backs is on the left wing with Angus Staniforth stepping up.

Italy, who were left chastened 15-55 at the DHL by an Ireland team they were within a whisker of beating in Cork last February in the Six Nations, have taken a scalpel to their XV by making nine changes, five in the pack and four in the backs.  

It was round two last year when they ambushed South Africa to make up for the horror opening round loss to Argentina, but you can’t see lightning striking twice and them picking off the Aussies.      

Fixture
World Rugby U20 Championship
Australia U20
12 - 17
Full-time
Italy U20
All Stats and Data

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